Mason Hamrick is the latest installment of a historically successful pole vault program at Jefferson High.
With Hamrick’s two state championships, including his most recent title this year, the Dragons have won 19 state titles in the pole vault dating back to 1964, making it one of the most successful events at a school with a multitude of track and field accomplishments over half a century.
“We’re known for it, because most of the great pole vaulters that have come out of Georgia have gone through Jefferson,” Hamrick said. “We’ve always had a really strong program, and it’s pretty good to know that I’m part of that.”
Hamrick became just the fourth Jefferson athlete to win multiple pole vault titles after he recorded a height of 15 feet at this year’s Class AA Georgia Olympics in May, holding off Riverside Military’s Skyler Toney after a back-and-forth battle between the Region 8-AA rivals.
Not only was the vault a personal record at the time for the Jefferson junior, it was his first-ever attempt at such a height. He ended up with the third-highest vault at state among all classifications.
For his efforts, Hamrick is the All-Area Boys Athlete of the Year.
“The whole entire week, I had worked and I had put myself in a mindset that there was absolutely nothing — no person, no weather scenario, nothing — that was going to stand in between me and earning another state championship,” Hamrick said. “So I went in there, I saw him and I saw the confidence (Toney) had. I didn’t let any of it get to me, because I knew what I had to do, and I knew that I could do it.”
Defeating Toney was not an easy task for Hamrick. He had lost to the Riverside senior at both the region and sectional meets, recording 13-foot vaults in the finals each time. Toney reached 13-6 both times.
So when the two athletes were the last remaining competitors with the bar above 13-6 once again, Hamrick knew he was going to need all the confidence he had built up that week to finally break through with a win over his toughest opponent.
He cleared 14 feet on the second try, but was matched by Toney on the first attempt for an Eagles record and new PR.
The bar was pushed to 14-6, and Hamrick reserved a moment to take in the cheering and chanting from a growing group of teammates, family and fans that had assembled beside the mat at the opposite end of the runway as rain began to sprinkle down on Jefferson Memorial Stadium.
Nothing could stop him at that point.
“Pretty much the whole community was over there supporting me,” Hamrick said. “I honestly couldn’t done it without them. They were there, and most of them had stuck with me through the year before and losing that state championship. They were a huge morale boost in that awful weather.”
Toney was unable to clear 14-6 on his three attempts, securing Hamrick’s second state title. But Hamrick figured it was as good a night as ever to try for 15, and he cleared the bar with ease on his first attempt.
He can’t even remember exactly how it happened.
“It was the first time I had ever attempted 15 feet with a bar,” Hamrick said. “Really, to be honest, after the rush of clearing 14-6 and seeing that I had won, as soon as I planted the pole, everything just went black and I just let instinct go and make that vault for me.”
Hamrick won his first state championship as a freshman in 2011 with a height of 13 feet. He placed third as a sophomore with 13-6.
Since winning state, he’s pushed his PR up to 15-2, a height that earned him first place in the Georgia Games on July 19 in Marietta.
The win was only his fourth competition since winning state, but it’s been far from a quiet summer for Hamrick. He trains daily at Jefferson Memorial Stadium, and has practiced at camps with coaches at both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.
Hamrick has used the camps to get his name out in an attempt to gain a potential scholarship. The Yellow Jackets have sparked his interest, as well as Iowa. Tennessee, which is currently led by Jefferson record holder and former state champion Tyler Porter, is currently atop Hamrick’s list of potential schools.
“As far as vaulting in college, there’s absolutely nothing that would make me happier,” Hamrick said. “I love the sport and I want to do it as long as I can. If I get a scholarship, it’ll be that much better, knowing I’m getting paid to go do what I love.”
It’s Porter’s school record of 16-7.25 that Hamrick has his sights on in 2014. Should he add another state title next year, he’ll be just the third Jefferson pole vaulter to win three state championships.
Hamrick also has intentions of challenging the all-time state record of 17-2, set by current Georgia Tech pole vaulter Nikita Kirillov in 2011.
Adding two feet to his PR in a single year is certainly a lofty goal, but Hamrick knows a thing or two about raising the bar on the competition.
“I’ve got to keep my mind straight, and I’ve got to stay focused, which I’m not going to have a problem with,” Hamrick said. “This is my last chance and my last year — I don’t get any do-overs.”